Most PEG stations are communities where public, education, and government entities enjoy equal access to the public without interference with each other. One-channel public access stations usually exist for a brief start up period while most go on the air for the first time with three channels. When different interests are forced to share the limited broadcast time of one channel the government interest always dominates, resulting in their routine meetings getting first choice of air time and the public getting the leftovers. Censorship of the cramped public ghetto is never far behind.
It doesn’t have to be this way. When California ceased renewing new local franchises in favor of a State franchise system I assumed the option to demand extra channel space from cable companies by local PEG stations ended. I was wrong. Beth, the sole surviving volunteer at TV8, told me she checked State franchise law P.U.C. 5870 and found the new channel provision was still in place. Our PEG Board is dominated by government representatives. I wonder why they didn’t know about this valuable free opportunity for local media.
Before the State franchise law took effect, we were told (accurately) that a station had to fill each channel they had with a minimum of 8 hours of local programming per day. Everyone assumed that “local programming” meant 8 hours of “locally produced” programming. Since I knew our neighboring 3-channel PEG stations were not powerhouses of local production I decided to conduct a survey of how they met the 8 hour per day per channel. The most bewildering was Willits that operates on no money except for City Council videoing and airing fees. They were a one channel station like Clearlake until about five years ago.
Willits PEG operates on Channels 3, 64, 65. I interviewed their main programmer, Andy, about their station content as well as his take on what I learned from other PEG station content.
Channel 65 is the scrolling community bulletin board. It is just as easy to fill one hour as 24 hours per day this way. One channel worth of 8-hour requirement met.
Channel 64 is the government channel. Since Willits is a small town they only have their Council meetings on video. The public would rebel if one channel was showing the same meeting over and over, 24 hours a day, 7 days per week. They import as many nearby government and government partner meetings as they can get. This type of programming is an aquired taste but it knocks out another channel for legal purposes.
Channel 3 is the true public access channel. In addition to video produced by local citizens, they have imported copywrite free programs from universities, PEG Media, and Archive.org. Clearly, local programming means “put on by a local person” and not as the PEG Board interpreted, “produced by a local person.” Most of their local programming is imported.
Other PEG stations are sometimes one channel short of a programming requirement due to not having the time to sort through all the free imports. They will fill this gap with an internet site created for this purpose. Examples are The Classic Arts Showcase and the NASA channels. When something more compelling comes along I’m sure they will make the switch.
TV 8 in Lake County is in a much better position to start a 3-channel line up than many PEG stations. We have an arrangement with Yuba College to air their Distance Learning Program classes. We could air all of them if it were not for the Board of Supervisors hogging up so much free time on our solitary channel. Unlike the County deadbeats, Yuba pays us but they’re getting tired of settling for half a loaf of time.
I believe the long time hamstringing of channels by the PEG Board is in the context of ongoing content censorship and acquiesence to illegal station shut-downs by City Managers (The station is in Clearlake’s old City Hall vending room). They have rebuffed ever effort by the public for their policies to become compliant with designated public forum law. So the channel upgrade could not have been merely an oversight by a dedicated but overworked PEG Board.
My suspicion is that their insistance on a one-channel PEG station is yet another strategy to strangle TV8 without showing any blood on their hands during its death throes.
The current Board chair is ED Robey. He was originally the County’s rep on the Board. After he quit his Supervisor’s gig he became a “Public Representative” on the Board, just in time for the December 9th, 2009 attack on the station. When no one else from the Board of Supervisors would consent to sit on this powder keg, Robey switched hats again to fill the County slot, even though he was no longer a Supervisor.
I have a better title for Mr. Robey. How about “ex PEG Board Member.” Officially, I am demanding that the BOS ask for Ed Robey’s resignation so TV8 can finally move forward toward independence and functionality. It would be a good idea if the free loading County butted out as well. There are non profits waiting in the wings to run TV8 right.